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​BHP Billiton today signed its Caroona Exploration Licence at a ceremony held in Sydney.  While the granting of the licence was initially announced on 17 February 2006, the signing officially gives the company the sole rights to explore the 350 square kilometre area in Gunnedah, New South Wales.  The region is believed to contain high quality thermal coal. 

The company paid A$100 million for the licence and will commence its drilling program later this year.  Subject to ongoing title tenure and the future grant of a mining lease, the company will pay additional amounts of up to a total of A$115 million in accordance with its Expression of Interest.
 
BHP Billiton also announced the establishment of the Caroona Regional Community Trust.  Mr Bob Kirkby, Executive President, BHP Billiton, said the trust fund was created to benefit the broader Caroona region.

“We are delighted to announce the creation of the Caroona Regional Community Trust, which will distribute up to A$5 million to community programs and projects over the next five years. 

“The establishment of the Trust is in recognition of the impact a large development can have on local communities and to plan towards upgrading local amenities.  The Trust will also provide education services and scholarships and provide assistance to environmental and indigenous programs.

“We recognise that we have a commitment to the local community and we look forward to working closely with them in the future.  Today marks the beginning of a lengthy exploration process and BHP Billiton has a strong commitment to the communities in which it operates,” he said.

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